Assemblymember Levine Bill Closing Campaign Contribution Limits Loophole Passes out of Elections Committee

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Existing Law Allows Unlimited Contributions to Candidates by Political Parties

(Sacramento)- Today AB 1234 by Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-Marin County) passed out of the Assembly Elections Committee on a 6 to 1 vote. AB 1234 will close a loophole that circumvents campaign contribution limits. This loophole allows political parties to make unlimited contributions to candidate campaigns.

“For years, the California Legislature has passed numerous empty measures urging campaign finance reform,” said Assemblymember Levine. “None of these measures made any progress at fixing our broken system. Today we took a step forward to pass meaningful campaign finance reform that will end money laundering by special interests through political parties.”

“For many years political parties have been allowed to funnel money to candidates and skirt the contribution limits,” said Kathay Feng, Executive Director of California Common Cause. “We think it is time for this loophole to be closed.”

In 1996 voters passed a strict law limiting campaign contributions. Proposition 208 would have limited contributions to $250 per legislative candidate and $1,000 per statewide candidate. A federal judge suspended Proposition 208, but political leaders believed it would be upheld on appeal.

In 2000, while Proposition 208 was under appeal, the Legislature approved legislation to place Proposition 34 on the ballot to create contribution limits that were substantially higher than Proposition 208 limits. The court delayed the decision on Proposition 208 until the fate of Proposition 34 was decided at the ballot. Proposition 34 was approved by the voters by a 60% to 40% margin. Proposition 34 has been used by special interests to launder political contributions to candidates.

Former Senator Ross Johnson, a one-time proponent of Proposition 34 and former chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission told the Los Angeles Times in 2009, “I would like to apologize to California voters for supporting Proposition 34 . . . Proposition 34 has allowed far too many ways for officeholders, candidates and special-interest contributors to legally circumvent its contribution limits.”

Since June 30, 2016 the parties so far have contributed more than $10 million to the 24 targeted Assembly and Senate races. In past elections, there has been much criticism of the loophole in Proposition 34. California Watch issued a report in 2010 that suggested that “Politicians and their supporters have routinely funneled money through county-level political party committees around the state, avoiding strict limits on campaign giving and hiding the source of millions in donations.”

Assemblymember Marc Levine represents the 10th Assembly District, which includes Marin and Sonoma Counties.

CONTACT: Minnie Santillan, (916) 319-2010, minnie.Santillan@asm.ca.gov